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Introduction to Political Science

16.4 The Post–Cold War Period and Modernization Theory

Introduction to Political Science16.4 The Post–Cold War Period and Modernization Theory

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Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. Introduction to Political Science
    1. 1 What Is Politics and What Is Political Science?
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 Defining Politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, How, and Why?
      3. 1.2 Public Policy, Public Interest, and Power
      4. 1.3 Political Science: The Systematic Study of Politics
      5. 1.4 Normative Political Science
      6. 1.5 Empirical Political Science
      7. 1.6 Individuals, Groups, Institutions, and International Relations
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
  3. Individuals
    1. 2 Political Behavior Is Human Behavior
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 What Goals Should We Seek in Politics?
      3. 2.2 Why Do Humans Make the Political Choices That They Do?
      4. 2.3 Human Behavior Is Partially Predictable
      5. 2.4 The Importance of Context for Political Decisions
      6. Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Review Questions
      9. Suggested Readings
    2. 3 Political Ideology
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 The Classical Origins of Western Political Ideologies
      3. 3.2 The Laws of Nature and the Social Contract
      4. 3.3 The Development of Varieties of Liberalism
      5. 3.4 Nationalism, Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism
      6. 3.5 Contemporary Democratic Liberalism
      7. 3.6 Contemporary Ideologies Further to the Political Left
      8. 3.7 Contemporary Ideologies Further to the Political Right
      9. 3.8 Political Ideologies That Reject Political Ideology: Scientific Socialism, Burkeanism, and Religious Extremism
      10. Summary
      11. Key Terms
      12. Review Questions
      13. Suggested Readings
    3. 4 Civil Liberties
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 The Freedom of the Individual
      3. 4.2 Constitutions and Individual Liberties
      4. 4.3 The Right to Privacy, Self-Determination, and the Freedom of Ideas
      5. 4.4 Freedom of Movement
      6. 4.5 The Rights of the Accused
      7. 4.6 The Right to a Healthy Environment
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
    4. 5 Political Participation and Public Opinion
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 What Is Political Participation?
      3. 5.2 What Limits Voter Participation in the United States?
      4. 5.3 How Do Individuals Participate Other Than Voting?
      5. 5.4 What Is Public Opinion and Where Does It Come From?
      6. 5.5 How Do We Measure Public Opinion?
      7. 5.6 Why Is Public Opinion Important?
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
  4. Groups
    1. 6 The Fundamentals of Group Political Activity
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Political Socialization: The Ways People Become Political
      3. 6.2 Political Culture: How People Express Their Political Identity
      4. 6.3 Collective Dilemmas: Making Group Decisions
      5. 6.4 Collective Action Problems: The Problem of Incentives
      6. 6.5 Resolving Collective Action Problems
      7. Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Review Questions
      10. Suggested Readings
    2. 7 Civil Rights
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Civil Rights and Constitutionalism
      3. 7.2 Political Culture and Majority-Minority Relations
      4. 7.3 Civil Rights Abuses
      5. 7.4 Civil Rights Movements
      6. 7.5 How Do Governments Bring About Civil Rights Change?
      7. Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Review Questions
      10. Suggested Readings
    3. 8 Interest Groups, Political Parties, and Elections
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 What Is an Interest Group?
      3. 8.2 What Are the Pros and Cons of Interest Groups?
      4. 8.3 Political Parties
      5. 8.4 What Are the Limits of Parties?
      6. 8.5 What Are Elections and Who Participates?
      7. 8.6 How Do People Participate in Elections?
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
  5. Institutions
    1. 9 Legislatures
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 What Do Legislatures Do?
      3. 9.2 What Is the Difference between Parliamentary and Presidential Systems?
      4. 9.3 What Is the Difference between Unicameral and Bicameral Systems?
      5. 9.4 The Decline of Legislative Influence
      6. Summary
      7. Key Terms
      8. Review Questions
      9. Suggested Readings
    2. 10 Executives, Cabinets, and Bureaucracies
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Democracies: Parliamentary, Presidential, and Semi-Presidential Regimes
      3. 10.2 The Executive in Presidential Regimes
      4. 10.3 The Executive in Parliamentary Regimes
      5. 10.4 Advantages, Disadvantages, and Challenges of Presidential and Parliamentary Regimes
      6. 10.5 Semi-Presidential Regimes
      7. 10.6 How Do Cabinets Function in Presidential and Parliamentary Regimes?
      8. 10.7 What Are the Purpose and Function of Bureaucracies?
      9. Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Review Questions
      12. Suggested Readings
    3. 11 Courts and Law
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 What Is the Judiciary?
      3. 11.2 How Does the Judiciary Take Action?
      4. 11.3 Types of Legal Systems around the World
      5. 11.4 Criminal versus Civil Laws
      6. 11.5 Due Process and Judicial Fairness
      7. 11.6 Judicial Review versus Executive Sovereignty
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
    4. 12 The Media
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 The Media as a Political Institution: Why Does It Matter?
      3. 12.2 Types of Media and the Changing Media Landscape
      4. 12.3 How Do Media and Elections Interact?
      5. 12.4 The Internet and Social Media
      6. 12.5 Declining Global Trust in the Media
      7. Summary
      8. Key Terms
      9. Review Questions
      10. Suggested Readings
  6. States and International Relations
    1. 13 Governing Regimes
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 Contemporary Government Regimes: Power, Legitimacy, and Authority
      3. 13.2 Categorizing Contemporary Regimes
      4. 13.3 Recent Trends: Illiberal Representative Regimes
      5. Summary
      6. Key Terms
      7. Review Questions
      8. Suggested Readings
    2. 14 International Relations
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 What Is Power, and How Do We Measure It?
      3. 14.2 Understanding the Different Types of Actors in the International System
      4. 14.3 Sovereignty and Anarchy
      5. 14.4 Using Levels of Analysis to Understand Conflict
      6. 14.5 The Realist Worldview
      7. 14.6 The Liberal and Social Worldview
      8. 14.7 Critical Worldviews
      9. Summary
      10. Key Terms
      11. Review Questions
      12. Suggested Readings
    3. 15 International Law and International Organizations
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 The Problem of Global Governance
      3. 15.2 International Law
      4. 15.3 The United Nations and Global Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)
      5. 15.4 How Do Regional IGOs Contribute to Global Governance?
      6. 15.5 Non-state Actors: Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)
      7. 15.6 Non-state Actors beyond NGOs
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
    4. 16 International Political Economy
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 The Origins of International Political Economy
      3. 16.2 The Advent of the Liberal Economy
      4. 16.3 The Bretton Woods Institutions
      5. 16.4 The Post–Cold War Period and Modernization Theory
      6. 16.5 From the 1990s to the 2020s: Current Issues in IPE
      7. 16.6 Considering Poverty, Inequality, and the Environmental Crisis
      8. Summary
      9. Key Terms
      10. Review Questions
      11. Suggested Readings
  7. References
  8. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe changes inaugurated with the end of the Cold War.
  • Explain key tenets of modernization theory.
  • Cite a counterargument to modernization theory.

From its beginning in the late 19th century until the end of the Cold War in 1989, international political economy was almost exclusively focused on the world’s international financial powers—liberal democracies in Western European countries and the United States. The majority of the research and discussions in the field did not include countries in regions that had different political and economic systems. Even when these other countries participated in international relations, as was the case in the Bretton Woods conference, they were considered mere spectators. The preferences of Western financial powers dominated the agenda.41

During the Cold War, economic transactions between the East and the West were very rare. Western liberal democracies interacted among themselves, and Eastern socialist republics did the same. The majority of international trade took place between the United States and European countries. However, the end of the Cold War highlighted the economic and political issues countries in other regions of the world, such as formerly communist and Latin American countries, were facing. With the end of the Cold War, the focus of IPE shifted from an exclusive interest in developed Western nations to promoting development across developing countries in different regions. Since the late 1940s, modernization theorists had been searching for ways to bring economic growth and democracy to developing societies.

A person holding a potted seedling crouches among coffee plants.
Figure 16.5 Oneida Gómez holds a coffee plant in the nursery she has planted with the help of Blue Harvest, a Catholic Relief Services partnership with Keurig Dr Pepper and the Inter-American Development Bank’s SAFE Platform that aims to improve the water supply to help the agricultural economy in El Salvador. This is just one example of a huge number of development projects in the post–Cold War era. (credit: “Blue Harvest El Salvador” by Maren Barbee/Flickr, Public Domain)

Modernization theorist Seymour Martin Lipset was one of the first to propose a link between economic development and democracy. He argued that improved wealth and education levels would create the right conditions for the establishment of democratic institutions.42 Once people with low socioeconomic status are given access to education, Lipset contended, they become less committed to their existing ideologies and less isolated from people of other socioeconomic statuses. As these groups become more educated and politically active, they become part of the middle class, and as the middle class increases, it pushes for democratic institutions.

In general, the key argument of modernization theory is that economic growth promotes structural changes in society that lead to increased political representation and, eventually, to the establishment of democratic institutions. Nevertheless, even though most developed countries are democracies, it is difficult to establish a causal mechanism, or a link, between economic growth and democratic institutions.

UCLA emeritus professor Barbara Geddes, a political scientist who has examined developing societies for over 20 years, contends that modernization is the most empirically supported hypothesis about the suitable conditions for democratization.43 Similarly, University of Chicago professor James A. Robinson has found statistical evidence indicating that economic development is highly correlated with democratization, even though the exact mechanism by which economic growth spurs democracy has not yet been uncovered.44

Video

Why Does Democracy Matter for Development?

At the Annual Democracy Forum 2014 in Gaborone, Botswana, Devex Associate Editor Richard Jones asked experts and high-level officials why democracy matters for development.

New York University professor Adam Przeworski and Fundação Getúlio Vargas professor Fernando Limongi, two other prominent modernization scholars, argue that the impact of economic development in a society is so strong that once a country reaches a certain threshold of growth, a democratic regime will always survive. These scholars offer a metaphor to explain this relationship, suggesting that if modernization is a long walk, democracy is only the final step. In their empirical analyses, they find that transitions to democracy occur independently of the level of economic development (or high per capita income levels); however, once a transition happens, countries with higher levels of economic development tend to remain democratic.45

Considering the difficulty of finding the causal mechanism between economic development and democracy, MIT professor Daron Acemoglu and colleagues have reevaluated the modernization hypothesis. They find that most studies that claim to have found a connection between economic development and democracy fail to account for relevant variables. They argue that events during critical historical moments lead to divergent economic and political outcomes—either promoting economic development and democracy or leading to poverty and authoritarianism. Thus, these scholars believe that these critical historical moments are an underlying cause of economic development and democracy.46

The core debate in modernization theory has not been solved. While developing countries, with the support of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, continue to pursue economic development, given the unwanted consequences of the market economy, the focus has shifted from development to sustainable development.

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